Shawmut Designs a Better Collaboration Strategy

Design and construction firms face enormous business and technology challenges. There are architectural plans to oversee, specifications to follow, change orders to manage and client requests to juggle. Without the ability to handle all of these tasks quickly and efficiently, projects often become bogged down and are prone to errors and other problems.

“Collaboration is at the center of a successful project,” states Joseph Lombardi, superintendent for Shawmut Design and Construction, a $1.2 billion firm with construction offices located across the United States.

A few years ago, the firm landed a large, challenging project to remodel and renovate a $100 million-plus custom mansion located on 10 acres in Newport, R.I. Shawmut had already adopted Autodesk BIM 360 software to manage new drawings, approvals, rejections, updated designs, change orders and various practical changes and alterations for five buildings, including a welcoming center, power plant, personal museum and home.

Although Autodesk includes a huge library of tools and resources in its building information modeling software, tasks and processes often became bogged down by the structural framework of the application. “We needed to move faster and have greater insight into where things were at and what needed to be done,” Lombardi says.

Boosting Project Management and Collaboration

After examining a number of solutions, Shawmut turned to SkySync to boost project management and collaboration capabilities. The cloud-based software connects directly to the Autodesk database and syncs files—PDFs, spreadsheets, documents files and more—in near real-time.

“Previously, we had files syncing anywhere from minutes to hours later,” Lombardi explains. “As a result, people didn’t always have the information they needed when they needed it.”

In some cases, people didn’t know where required information was located, or they had to wait until an update took place. “We also had situations where people were using outdated drawings or relying on outdated information,” he adds.

In the past, three project managers spent virtually all their time updating the Autodesk database and making sure employees and others received the information they needed. “This was not the most productive use of their time,” Lombardi points out. “In some cases, we wound up with errors that led to delays, and people had to redo tasks, such as updating drawings and AutoCAD files.”

After installing SkySync in April 2014, project management moved into the digital age. The system makes it possible to push out changes to employees and subcontractors in the field, who may be using a mobile device, such as smartphone or tablet.

Lombardi reports that the three project managers are now able to devote their time and energy to more strategic tasks. “They essentially went from spending about 40 hours a week keeping everything running to only a couple of minutes per week,” he says.

Although Shawmut encountered a few minor technical hiccups, the transition went smoothly and was mostly problem-free, Lombardi says. The biggest obstacle revolved around cultural issues, such as convincing project managers and others that using the software and remapping workflows and processes would simplify things rather than put them out of work.

“Once they realized that we were not taking their job away from them and were dramatically improving the way we managed the project, they were extremely receptive,” Lombardi says. “Some of them even asked why we hadn’t turned to this solution sooner.”